Sing!

“Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth.” Psalm 96:1

Read this verse over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

This morning the Holy Spirit is telling me it is time to sing! I love singing. I do it almost every day. If I’m not singing, I’m listening to songs. But our verse talks about singing a new song. It is a call to go deeper. This seems to be a theme lately. So, lets dive in.

I remember when I was little I would just sing. It wasn’t songs that were known. I would just make something up right on the spot. It would be about what I was doing or how I was feeling at the time. Why did I stop? I always enjoy watching and listening to young kids sing especially when it is made up songs. They are so innocent. There is no rhyme or reason other than it is what is going through their heads. We need to be more spontaneous about our singing to God. I know if we would just burst out in song while at work or in the middle of a crowd people would think we are out of our minds, or would they?

At some point, usually in our teens we become aware of what other people think. Then we start to stress over what other people think. Suddenly how we appear to others matters and we change our lives in order to please others. Most of us will spend the rest of our lives living the life we think other people want us to live in order to gain their approval. It maybe our parents, siblings, church family, neighbors, friends, teachers and you can probably add someone to this list. But do we live for God?

Living for God means living with authenticity. It means living beyond our world view. It means living beyond our self-centeredness. We don’t need to prove anything. Just being who God made us to be. Part of that is praising Him all the time. Becoming kids again by just bursting out in praise and thanksgiving to God not caring what other people think. Singing a song that no one has song before expressing our love of God. That is what the Psalms are. Expressions of our love and understanding of God, to God as prayers in the form of songs. They came from spontaneous singing.

Just thinking about it has me nervous. I write songs, but they usually come after brutal and long attempts of trying to find the perfect words. What if I just sang? What if you just sang? What if we just sang from the heart new songs to God? Don’t worry about it being good enough. Don’t worry about it rhyming or falling into any particular pattern. Just sing. Sing from the heart. Sing with joy. Sing like a kid again.

To be honest as I think about it I feel silly. I think too often we make our relationship with God out to be too formal. It needs to be personal. It needs to have feeling. That may be feeling silly at times. It may be serious other times. But it is a relationship that is open and alive. A relationship that is comfortable singing even if our voice sounds bad or we have no rhythm. Even if we can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Let go of control and burst forth a new song. Sing!

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You are More

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV

Read this verse over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

This morning the Holy Spirit is whispering “you are more!” I believe this is a response to some doubt that I have. God is reminding me that I am more than what I perceive. That there is power in me that is beyond me. This is a reminder to you as well.

Our verse is written by the Apostle Paul to Timothy. Paul is reminding Timothy of the same thing. “God has not given us a spirit of fear.” The word for fear here is derived from a word that means faithless. In other words, God has not given us a spirit of faithlessness. Instead He has given us a Spirit of Power, Love, and Sound Mind.

These three words are important. They explain what we have in us all the time as Christians. First Power. This is more than just human strength. The word alludes to miraculous power. Power beyond our selves even power beyond our understanding. This kind of power allows us to do things we would not be able to do as ordinary humans. We have God’s power in us. This is a force stronger than any evil power. It is a force that can move mountains. With this kind of power become great responsibility. It requires faith, trust. It is also used with the next two words: Love and sound mind.

The Greek word used for Love is agape. This word literally means a love feast. It is over flowing love. It is Godly love. It is love that can not be contained and must be given. With this kind of love there is great power. With this kind of love and power we must also have a sound mind.

The word for sound mind means discipline, self-control. It is a way of thinking beyond your years. It is a kind of thinking that is selfless. It trusts in its power from within and fears nothing because it knows the power of God is in it. It doesn’t allow circumstances to dictate how to react but instead changes its circumstances by its action. There is no victim mentality here. A sound mind does not panic. It doesn’t over react. It doesn’t lash out. It is full of love. Always thinking of others first, and does the will of God instead the will of man. That is what self-control and discipline looks like.

Are you ready to go out for battle now? God has given us all that we need to live in this world but to never be of this world. He has given us all we need to live out His will for us. To point others to Him. To do the impossible by being more than the sin that is in us. You are More!

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Jesus is Our Peace

“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace.” Ephesians 2:14-15

Read these verses over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

To be honest I wasn’t wanting to go this deep this morning, but God has other plans. Our verses are simple and complicated at the same time. There is deep theology in here but also simple peace. If we are willing to just accept we will see and feel peace right away. But in that peace God is calling us deeper. Deeper into Jesus. This morning the whisper I hear is “peace” more specifically “Jesus is our peace.”

To have peace, peace has to be simple and easy, even though the process that brings us peace is anything but simple. Peace is made possible because of what Jesus did. He became man, fully human, even though He was fully God. These two things are separate at the time of Jesus because sin had separated them. But the law was the bridge. For humans the law was impassable, so Jesus had to fulfill the law so that we could be connected to God through Him. He became the bridge. Now we can be connected to God through Jesus. How does this bring us peace?

It means that if we trust Jesus; if we accept Jesus as our Savior, we have God’s peace. It is that simple. Yet we over complicate it. We put parameters that aren’t there. Sin does that. Even though Jesus overcame sin for us we still cling to it. We still listen to its lies. Sin says we aren’t good enough. Jesus says we are now perfect. Sin says we can’t trust the unknown. Jesus says come with me and you will know me. Sin says run away and God holds out His arms to accept us. Who will you trust?

It is hard. We know sin like the back of our hands. We know the pain it causes. We know the hardships it brings but it is a known quantity. God on the other hand is a mystery. We know He exists though we will deny it because if He is real then our sin is real, and we are doomed. But for those who accept Jesus, God becomes the known. Now the hard part is letting go of sin. Sin brings momentary happiness. It is addictive. Yet God brings

everlasting peace, but it also brings strife between us and the world. If we fully trust God, then that strife is bearable but if we wavier in any way that strife becomes unbearable. So, we are stuck in between the two. Wanting to let go of the known for the unknown but struggling to trust in the unknown.

Sin will tell us the truth just enough to feed us the lie. God will always tell us the truth, but it isn’t always what we want to hear. So, we fall for the lies of sin because sin will tell us what we want to hear then feed us the pain later. Therefore, peace is so hard to come by. Peace is full trust in God, which means no worry or anxiety. It is living knowing that God has everything under control. It is living knowing that God will work everything for good. It is trusting that God’s good is far better than our idea of good.

The question now comes, will you trust God? Will you accept Jesus as your Savior which means stop trying to save yourself? When we accept Jesus as our Savior we become one with God. If we are one with God, we will live like we are one with God. We will know Peace because Jesus is our peace.

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No More Sin!

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Read this verse over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

Revelation is an interesting book. It has great imagery that is hard to imagine and explain. There are many ways to interpret the book of Revelation. Some take it literally. Some think it is written about past events, some think it is yet to come. I am of the personal belief that it is past, present and future. That it is an apocryphal book of the entire Bible. In other words, it is a book of hidden meaning and that hidden meaning is a condensed version of the Bible.

Our verse today is speaking of the end times, we think. When the world ends God will create a new heaven and earth. He will wipe every tear and there will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain for those days of sin will be behind us. I am excited about the end. Those who have left us are already experiencing it. Life with God. Life as He intended it. In perfection.

It is hard to comprehend what that life will be like. We have references to it in the Bible, but we have to understand these are human explanations of something that is incomprehensible. We can’t fully explain or understand life with God in heaven is like because our human brains can’t handle it. Our language is inadequate. So, we do the best we can. This is where faith comes in.

We are only travelers. Walking through our part of time here on earth until it is gone in which we will be with God forever. But if we instead try to hold on to this time on earth and deny God we will end up living in eternal hell. I don’t know what that will be like, but I know it is bad. Some will say it is life without God. That is hard to believe because God is everywhere and everything. I would say it is life with out God’s love. It will be a place full of the self-absorbed and selfish people. There would be great darkness for God’s light would not shine there. The Bible describes it as hot and miserable. That is enough for me. I don’t want to live there for eternity.

Where does this leave us? We need to get to know God and fully trust Him. Live our lives with Him as our center and we will have nothing to worry about. In fact, we will have everything to look forward to. It isn’t easy. Life on this sin filled earth isn’t easy. But this brief time will determine how we spend eternity. We must remember that we can’t earn grace. It is given freely. This means we must stop trying to live like we think we should or how we want to live. It means we must give our selves to God and allow Him to live through us. This requires us to get to know Him. To have a personal relationship with Jesus. This is done in prayer.

Prayer is our relationship. If you want to know what kind of relationship you have with God look at your prayer life. Do you have a prayer life? Is it one sided in which you do all the talking expecting God to give you everything you want? Do you listen for Him to talk? Is it a controlling prayer life in which you give the orders expecting God to do what you want? Is it a passing prayer life in which you do a run by prayer when you want something or need help?

The Apostle Paul tells us to pray unceasingly. I don’t think he is telling us to go and hide away for the rest of our lives in prayer. It means living with God on our mind all day. Looking for direction from Him. Living aware of God’s presence. Sharing your life with Him like you do your spouse or best friend. If we do this, we will know what it is like to live in grace. We will understand God better than we can explain Him, and we will look forward to life with Him in heaven. We won’t be afraid of what is to come because we will yearn for it.

I can’t wait for heaven. But I can wait because I know God has plans for me here. I don’t want to leave my family in a way that they would be angry at God. I hope that my passing would be something that gives hope and points people to Him. That is the life I pray to live. To be a beacon pointing the way to God. In my life and in my death. I want everyone to experience God wiping all tears away. I want everyone to see no more mourning, no more death, no more pain and no more crying. In other words, no more sin! May we all know God personally and experience life eternal with Him.

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Satisfied?

“it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself. Your self will not satisfy you for long.” Luke 6:25 MSG

Read this verse over and over. What is the Jesus whispering to you?

This morning the question “where is your satisfaction?” keeps running through my head. Our verse is a warning by Jesus to find satisfaction in Him, not in our situation, or circumstance, or status. It is a call to let go and trust Him.

This goes both ways. If you are satisfied in your circumstances now how will you be later? If you are down and struggling with your circumstances now where is your peace and comfort? Jesus is stable. If we find satisfaction in Him, then we won’t experience the extreme roller coaster of emotions. We will know peace even in the storm.

It is interesting how study after study has shown that your attitude affects your health. If you have a bad attitude toward your circumstances your health will suffer. We found out when my wife went through cancer that the diagnosis was much better if she kept a positive attitude. That is hard to do when you hurt or don’t feel good. It is hard to do when you don’t know the future and the possibilities could be negative. She was able to focus on God, on Jesus. She found joy in Him. She found peace in Him. She found healing in God.

Where is your hope? Where is your satisfaction? Where is your joy? Where is your peace? If you struggle in any of these areas, you need to focus on Jesus. I’m not saying it is easy. It isn’t. We must set aside our selfishness. We must let go of our need for control. We must go against society. We may even have to let go or separate from family members who keep dragging us down or away from God. We must slow down. Spend time in Bible study. Spend time in quiet prayer. Spend time with God. It takes time to build a relationship. It even requires some tough choices, maybe even some work. We have to deny our sinfulness and sacrifice our personal preferences and find our peace and joy in God instead of self or things.

I struggle with trying to find satisfaction in eating. When I am stressed I like to eat. When I am down I like to eat. I gained weight when my wife went through cancer. I am trying to lose that weight and I have lost most of it, but this last bit is a struggle because this time of year is more stressful and a downer to me. The weather is harder to work in. The sun doesn’t shine as much. There are less daytime hours in the day. And it is the end of the year tax and finance stuff. So, I struggle. I just want to sit around watch tv and eat.

When we get down we must push ourselves to do somethings we don’t want to do. We need to be active. The more we lay around the more we want to lay around but if we get up and do things, even if it is just walking, we will get more energy. The most important thing is to look to God. Find books to read that push you to learn more about God. Read the Bible and listen. Write down what you think God is telling. How can you apply what you just read? What is God trying to tell you through His Word. Listen to pod casts from preachers and teachers of the word. This can be done as you drive to and from work. It can be done while you do house hold chores or even while you are at work.

Get together with fellow believers. Having a Bible study or prayer group is important. These people can help you find joy and peace. They can help shoulder your burdens. They can help build you up. Get together with people you can be open and honest with. Talk about God and your relationships with Him. Share things that help each other in times of struggle. Discover Bible verses together that help you through your times of struggle.

The key is don’t turn inward because that will not support you. We were created to need support from others. We are a very social creature. We need a relationship with God and we need relationships with other people. It is amazing. I’ve never been one to seek social connections. It scares me sometimes but that is what helps me. I have found that I need to be around others. Now I am slightly an extrovert. Introverts need people too, but they tend to need more one on one people. We all need that contact with others to help us get through life. In other words, we need to focus outwardly instead of inwardly. We need to find satisfaction in God first and others second then we will know peace, love, and joy.

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Go Deeper

“Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end.” Psalm 119:33

Read this verse over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

Our verse this morning is interesting. If you look in the Bible the verse starts with “He” or “Heh.” This is the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Psalm 119 is a prayer for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. There is a name for it, but I can’t recall it at the moment. At face value our verse is a nice prayer asking for understanding. But the whisper I hear this morning is “go deeper.”

The prayer for the letter “He” is verses 33 through 40. The Hebrew alphabet is different from the English one. There is a lot of symbolism in it. The letters have meanings beyond the letter. ‘He’ means window. With a window light comes through, wind comes through, but you use a door to enter a house. The window symbolizes God’s light, as Christians we see this as the work of the Holy Spirit. So, the prayer with this letter is for deeper enlightenment. It is more than common knowledge.

It is one thing to be taught the decrees of God, but it is quiet another to follow them. This prayer is calling God to enlighten the psalmist so that he can live out God’s decrees, His law. How can we apply this for us today?

Knowledge is one thing, understanding is another, and application is still another. If we allow God in our heart we will have all three: Knowledge, understanding, and application. We can try to do it our self, but we will just live blind. As the saying goes even a blind squirrel can find an acorn, so even blind humans can do somethings right but without God’s help, with out the help of the Holy Spirit, we can’t live for God. We can’t live in righteousness. Without God we live in sin.

It is understood in Hebrew that if you close the window to your soul you will live in darkness, you will be evil. Don’t close the window. Let the light of Christ shine. Allow the Holy Spirit to do its work in you. Then you will know the ways of God. We will live as God is calling us to live. Don’t live on the surface, go deeper. Pray for God’s light to shine in and through you.

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In the Beginning God…

“In the beginning God…” Geneses 1:1

Read this verse over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

“In the beginning God…” notice it doesn’t say in the beginning (insert name). Yet that is how I act too many times. I’m in the beginning, the middle and the end of too much of what I do. It’s not about me.

I’ll be the first to admit that life is complicated. How much of that complication is because we put ourselves first all the time? How much of that complication is because we try to solve our problems and only when we can’t do it we then seek God? What if we always started with God in the beginning of all we do?

I know its hard. I struggle all the time with putting God first. Even when I think I’m putting God first I’m not. Putting God first means trusting Him in all we do. It means letting go of control. Too many times I trust God right up until I feel out of control and then I turn to me again. I trust God in only certain areas, but I haven’t given Him all my life yet. I want to, but… and there it is. There is always a but involved somewhere. An excuse for my sin. A Justification to make me feel better; to feel in control again.

Letting go requires us to trust God as we fall, or does it? Letting go doesn’t necessarily mean we are going to fall. Our sinful nature will fall, and God isn’t going to catch that part of us. Let go of sin and hold on to God then, we have no worries of falling. Holding on to God means not running from Him. God already has ahold of us. We just need to let Him. We need to feel Him all around us. Let go enough to sense His presence. The warmth of His being.

Try this exercise. Find a comfortable place and lean back and close your eyes. Relax with your arms to your side with your hands open facing up. Now just let go. Take deep breathes. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. As you breathe out let go, relax. Keep doing this. Just let everything go and concentrate on God’s presence. Do you feel it? It is like you’re floating on a cloud. Nothing is weighing you down.

That is the feeling of putting God first. Of trusting everything to God. Can you take this with you today? It doesn’t mean we don’t do anything. It doesn’t mean we make no decisions. It means we trust that what ever happens God will work it for good. It is time to put God in all our beginnings, our middles and our ends. Recognize that God is already there. He has always been there and will always be there. Trust Him.

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You, O LORD, Are My Light

“You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” Psalm 18:28

Read this verse over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

We’ve had a couple dreary days now which makes it easy to become down. But we must remember where our light comes from. If we take the NIV translation at face value, we miss the point. For the sake of poetry, the NIV translates this in correctly. It should say something like “You, O LORD, Light my lamp.” Or “set ablaze my candle” The point is with out God we have no light. With that said if we read all of Psalm 18 I don’t think we will miss this point even with the NIV translation.

When ever we feel down. When ever darkness seems to surround us, we need to remember to look to the light. God is light shining all the time everywhere. When we allow God to penetrate our hearts, His light is in us. I don’t have a light, but God can shine through me. He is the only one who can light our candles. He is the only flame that will penetrate the darkness.

This world needs God’s light but it keeps trying to make its own light. There is a challenge going across the internet in which two people are blind folded and must walk across a room with Lego’s and mouse traps on the floor. They must complete a task like taking something to a table or grabbing something from a table and go back and forth several times. I have never done this, but I can tell it is painful. That is what it is like going through life without the light of Jesus. We just keep stepping on mouse traps and Lego’s because without the Light of Christ we are blind.

I am guilty of doing things on my own. Trying to be my own light. Each time I end up doing some stupid things that only later when God’s light shines do I then realize how bad it was. It is time to realize that God is our light. It is time to say “You, O LORD, are my Light.” It is time to let His light shine so we can see in the darkness.

It sounds so simple, yet it is so hard to do. When we are in darkness it seems like there is no way out. Don’t turn inward. Instead look up. Open up instead of shutting down. Come out from behind your walls and see God. Let Jesus help you. He is our hope when there seems to be none. He is our light even when we can’t see Him. Let go of this world. God wants to show us the way. Let Him. Let Him light your candle. Let Him be our light.

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Worship Him

“They (Magi) saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.” Matthew 2:11

Read this verse over and over. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to you?

Tomorrow is the Epiphany, the time we celebrate the coming of the Magi to see baby Jesus. Things we may not know from the stories we have been told. Magi stands for men of science from a foreign land, sometimes called magicians. These were men from the east. Could be kings or noblemen. They were educated and studied the stars. The number is unknown. We know there was at least two and could be many. It is assumed to be 3 because of the 3 gifts they gave Jesus. Jesus was probably around two years old at this time. According to the time that the magi saw the star it was two years prior which may be how long it took them to travel. There is no indication that they were Jews, so this is the first sign that Jesus came to save the gentiles too.

The gifts the magi gave are significant. First, the word for gifts can also be translated as sacrifices. The three gifts were no coincident. They have great meaning. Gold is for a king. It is tribute for someone greater than they, a ruler of men. Frankincense, or incense, is used in priestly ceremony representing that Jesus is a priest. Myrrh is a perfume used in embalming the dead, foreshadowing Christ’s death.

When the Magi found Jesus, they fell down and worshipped Him. Men of science worshiped Jesus, a baby or toddler. The significance of this is profound. The word for worship here is interesting. One meaning is to kiss, like a dog licking the hand of its master. It is a word describing complete reverence. Jesus was their master, their King. It is a reaction of almost groveling. It is an acknowledgment that they are but dogs and Jesus is their master. Do you have this attitude toward Jesus?

Today we often understand Jesus as our best friend. Someone we can do anything with. While this is a great way to think about living in grace it misses the point. Jesus is more. He is worthy of our worship. We are but dogs, unworthy of being treated like equals. Yet Jesus came to serve us. That is the example that He set. We are to serve others as He served us. They may not deserve our service. That doesn’t matter. They may be dogs compared to who we are, but Jesus gave them value by dying for them and for us. We all have great value because of that sacrifice. Therefore, Jesus is more than just a friend. He is our mentor, our king, our ruler, our God, our redeemer, our sacrifice. He is our master and Lord. He is worthy of our service and worship.

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Are You Free?

If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36

Read this verse over and over. What is Jesus whispering to you?

Are you free? That is the question that keeps running through my head. The next question is what is still holding you captive? Take a moment to reflect on those questions. We are free because of what Jesus did for us but something is holding us back. We aren’t living the life of a child of God. Think about it, do we show perfect love? Are we loving our neighbor as ourselves? Are we loving God with all our being? Why not?

Everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (vs 34) Jesus has set us free from the bondage of sin yet we still live in those chains. I keep saying over and over that sin is more than just breaking the ten commandments. It is living for ourselves instead of living for God. Even though I say this I still live for me. I must be the biggest sinner of all. For I do the very things I do not want to do. Thanks be to God, Jesus has set me free from that very sin. Sin no longer controls my future. I am forgiven. If I don’t forgive myself then I am still held in chains. There is the thing that is still holding me captive. Is it holding you captive?

What things in your past have you not forgiven? If you can’t forgive yourself then you can’t move on. You are stuck. If you don’t love yourself how can you love your neighbor? How can you love God? I struggle. I have made mistakes and every time I need to make a decision, I think about my past mistakes and I fear making another. That fear is the chains of sin. In stead of fearing a mistake we need to trust in God’s forgiveness.

Maybe your mistake hurt you. You trusted someone, and they hurt you or someone you love. I am sorry for you pain. Now you fear trusting anyone because you don’t want to be hurt again. Again, fear is your chains. We must forgive and trust God to get us through the pain. We must trust God to turn that hurt into blessing. The reality is people will always hurt each other. That doesn’t mean we should never trust people or let people in. It means we should trust God above people. It means we need to let what is going to happen, happen. Trust that God has it under control and through us God will touch others but only if we are willing to trust Him instead of living our lives in bondage to our fears, to sin.

It is time to live in freedom. It is time to let go of our past and trust God with our future. The more time we spend with God the easier that will be. Take time to pray, to read and study the Bible. Open up and let God in. Let go of fear. Let go of your sin. Stop judging your self and others and accept God’s grace. That is how we realize our God given potential. Are You Free? Yes, you are free, now live like it.

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